By the late 1880s Duncan Campbell Scott was a regular contributor to Scribner's Magazine. His 1896 In the Village of Viger is a collection of delicate sketches of French Canadian life. Two later collections, The Witching of Elspie (1923) and The Circle of Affection (1947), contained many fine short stories in wilderness settings. His short fiction was brought together in The Uncollected Short Stories of Duncan Campbell Scott, published in 2001.
As a spare-time writer Duncan Campbell Scott found the pursuit of poetry more manageable than fiction. In 1893 he published his first volume of poetry, The Magic House and Other Poems. Seven more collections of poems followed: The Magic House: Labor and the Angel (1898), New World Lyrics and Ballads (1905), Via Borealis (1906), Lundy's Lane and Other Poems (1916), Beauty and Life (1921), The Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott (1926) and The Green Cloister (1935). The Circle of Affection, chiefly a collection of prose, included a number of poems not previously published. Although Scott complained of critical neglect, his literary reputation has never been in doubt. He has been well represented in virtually all major anthologies of Canadian poetry published since 1900.
His work and travels for the Department of Indian Affairs furnished Scott with many literary subjects. The ironic contradiction between Scott's prominent role in implementing assimilation, later recognized as a racist bureaucratic policy, and his literary representations of First Nations peoples in his poetry and fiction has generated considerable critical controversy. For example, in poems such as his 1894 sonnet "The Onondaga Madonna," Scott presents his Native subjects as noble, but doomed. Later 20th- and 21st-century readers can see the dark irony of Scott's poetic lament for a waning culture that his own department was actively eradicating.
Duncan Campbell Scott valued music even above poetry and was an accomplished pianist. Murray ADASKIN was a friend, as were painters Homer WATSON and Edmund MORRIS and later Lawren HARRIS and Clarence GAGNON. Scott was a prime mover in the establishment of the Ottawa Little Theatre and the Dominion Drama Festival. A one-act play, Pierre, was first performed at the Ottawa Little Theatre in 1923 and subsequently published in Canadian Plays from Hart House Theatre (1926).
There is ample evidence of Duncan Campbell Scott's engagement as a writer. He contributed (with Lampman and Wilfred CAMPBELL) informal essays to the Toronto Globe in 1892-93, published as At the Mermaid Inn (1979). He wrote a novel which did not go to press until it was brought out in 1979 as The Untitled Novel. For the Makers of Canada series, which he directed with Pelham Edgar, he wrote a biography of John Graves SIMCOE (1905). In 1947 he published a book on Walter J. PHILLIPS. Perhaps most impressive was Duncan Campbell Scott's lifelong concern for Lampman's literary reputation. This loyalty to his good friend was expressed mainly by Scott's editions of Lampman's poems (1900-47).
See also NATIVE PEOPLE, GOVERNMENT POLICY.
Author R.L. MCDOUGALL
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Poetry Archive
Click on this page to view a website that offers an extensive collection of exemplary Canadian poetry and biographies of various Canadian poets. From Library and Archives Canada.
The Canadian Poetry Press
This site offers scholarly commentary on a wide range of Canadian poetry. Includes many poems by Canadian authors and information about the “Confederation poets”.
Duncan Campbell Scott: The Poet and the Indians
View a documentary film about Duncan Campbell Scott, a prominent literary figure in Canada who was also responsible for repressive assimiliation programs as head of the Department of Indian Affairs in the early 20th century. From knowledge.ca.